Posts Tagged ‘Christian’


I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP).  The day started off with a notice from one of the other ERP social workers that our ERP social worker, Ms. Grey, would not be in today.  We didn’t know why she wasn’t here but many of us didn’t mind.  With all the assignments piled on us as of late, many of us welcomed the break.  Of course we have another ERP graduation coming tomorrow so cellies Corey Ball and Brian Whalen are happy and bouncing off the walls as it’s not their turn.  Whalen and Ball both insist they’ll stay in touch.  I don’t put a lot of faith in this but you never know. I’ll be in Menasha, WI and they’ll be in southern Wisconsin so its pretty unlikely.  In light of the direction they both have indicated they’re going, it might not be wise to stay in touch anyway.  I’m happy to report my cravings and dreams have subsided.  A sponsor sent me materials on this and it seems its perfectly normal.  I remain irritable.  This swamper job isn’t helping that at all.  Our excitement for the day was started by members of the graduating ERP class.  They decided they wanted to call out several members of the group at the community meeting for poor hygiene.  Guess who was the focal point of this discussion?  My ERP group member Scott Dietz of course.  Unfortunately it is true as well. Many have complained about his smell.  Somehow, my cellie Larry Sands got roped into this.  They also went around to each room asking them to identify people who have issues with hygiene.  Sands asked me what I thought.  I urged him to make sure if they were going to do this they do it in such a way that doesn’t make the person feel attacked.  I suggested they call them out as a group, not individually.  Sands would eventually consult with another ERP Social worker, Ms. Carr, who would tell them to stand down because she’ll address it in the community meeting (again) and speak with the people involved individually.  So I thought that would be the end of it.  When the time for the community meeting came at 3, the time for issues in the community came up and sure enough Ms. Carr spoke up and said she’d be talking to the people on the list.  It probably would have stopped there had it not been for one guy on the list responded by just going on and on about various reasons why people might smell.  The former swamper who is planning on robbing Whalen and is graduating ERP tomorrow as well, spoke up and specifically called out Dietz for failing to wear deodorant and smelling up the rec room when exercising.  This was very bad.  His reaction is bad enough when he gets put on the spot in group.  How much more will it be in front of a group of 40!  They went at each other back and forth with Ms. Carr stepping in.  Dietz clearly was in a bad way as he made a face and sound of disgust at Ms. Carr that others close to him picked up on.  The other ERP social worker present acted as if she was going to challenge Dietz on that but didn’t.  Mercifully, we moved on.  Once again, community member participation is laughing.  Ms. Carr said we’d have to write down our responses to the quote, word of the week and defense mechanism if it didn’t get better like we did before.  By the way, the word of the week which Sussex provided was “sacrifice” which was explained extremely well.  He reminds me of when I was a new Christian.  Every conversation turns into a sermon on his part on how I should do this or that.  I told him at one point he talked too much, but with a smile on my face indicating no malice was intended.  He’s young and on fire for God.  Life taught me that not everything is as black and white as I thought it should be when I was young in matters of faith or love.  But I’m not going to say anything to him to make that realization come any sooner.  In that mindset people don’t listen well.  The night ended with Dietz working out and using the phones while sweating and smelling and everyone grumbling.  So this whole thing is obviously not over.

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I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP).  My first morning as a swamper along with my fellow swamper, David Sussex went without incident.  In the time we await the food I got to know him a little bit.  He proclaims himself a born again Christian, as I consider myself, and I’ve seen no reason to doubt him.  He is very vocal about his faith here while I am, as with everything else I do here, am very quiet.  Every morning he is out there reading his Bible just as I do.  If he irritates me in some fashion, its probably his desire to engage me in conversation about what I’m reading and start “preaching” about anything I might share that I struggle with.  But that probably says more about me than him!  As our ERP group got started that morning our ERP Social Worker, Ms. Grey, took the topics from the resumes and interviews to the in-depth topic of relationships.  She handed out another workbook from The Change Companies designed for the Federal Bureau of Prisons that we had used early in group called Living With Others, and another packet from Earnie Larson.  We have used his materials before as well.  We spent the morning on an exercise where we identified the feelings connected to dating through marriage.  She then erased the words “first date” and replaced it with “addiction” and it followed pretty closely.  Pretty clever.  In the afternoon we watched the first four parts of video From the Inside Out from Hazeldon featuring Earnie Larson.  It’s actually quite good.  The first part got into why relationships are important. It looked at positive and negative relationships in our past lives, the different types of relationships, how love has been taught to us in the past, and principles of building good relationships.  I had difficulty sharing details of what my past impressions of love were like early on and solidified as the years went on.  But everyone knows me now and aren’t shocked by my answers anymore.  Even if they were, I decided long ago I was going to be honest.  I’m also grateful no one calls me a liar here as others have in the past, such as the psychiatrist at my court proceedings did and others did as I was growing up into adulthood.  I’m now able to document most details of my past thanks to my contact with my biological family.  After group ended at 4 pm, we had another fill in guard as they still haven’t yet replaced Ruth Barthowski, named Larry Cable.  Due to differing rules with different guards, there’s always a certain amount of risk involved.  Following customs set by pervious officers or what is considered normal.  But it was pretty clear while Sussex and I waited for the dinner trays he was going to be anything but predictable.  Its customary for inmates to go out in the hall in front of the cell to fart if necessary as a courtesy to their cellies.  However; Cable yelled at cellie Corey Ball for doing so.  Then he had us swampers walk around and make sure cell doors were closed.  Again, not normally done.  Cable then tried to micromanage how many extra trays we’d get and how many we’d try to send away.  Ok, I don’t care.  But then the extra tray I did get I took to my table and gave away all of its contents to the guys sitting there.  Cable said I couldn’t give the extra food away, that it was only for me, even though the rule book clearly says I can.  Problem is technically swampers aren’t supposed to get extra food at all.  So the rulebook doesn’t help either of us.  So as he is yelling at me in front of everyone, he announces he won’t allow extra trays when he works here anymore.  Others would later tell me that I should have quit right there.  But I didn’t.  I was mad though. I would return later before 6 pm count and ask him not to hold the whole unit responsible for something I didn’t know was his rule.  Finally he said he’d consider it.  It was uncomfortable at cleanup before 9:15 pm count.  But I’m just grateful he won’t be here often.  Being a swamper is fine but I’m not going to put myself in jeopardy to do it. 


I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP).  After the debacle the previous day, I dreaded the following morning.  I was waiting for the other shoe to drop, the meeting between cellie Andre Charles, his ERP group leader, my ERP group leader, Ms. Grey, and myself.  I imagined the fireworks that probably had gone off in their office as a result of all this.  Perhaps I’d get lucky and with Andre leaving soon maybe they’ll leave it alone.  I just doubt it.  To make matters worse, Andre had relaxed and the cell was returning to normal.  Opening this up again will just make things worse.  But I doubt Ms. Grey will see it that way.  The day started off with us all assembled in the dayroom.  We were scheduled to finish ERP group member John Lloyd and mine presentation to the group of our self-evaluations.  I have largely skipped writing about this as a lot has gone on the last few days and space/time constraints dictated some choices had to be made.  But the self-evaluation consisted of some questions of what has changed since we started our group, what we need to work on in Phase II of the program, and what we need to work on when we get out.  On the other side were questions on a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 the best rating.  We evaluated openness, honesty, participation, program expectations, unit tasks, interactions with peers and staff and written assignments.  Most everybody agreed with the person’s evaluation of themselves and rarely did anyone challenge anything and this morning we spent until the dayroom closed from 8 am to 11:45 am.  We wondered if Ms. Grey had gone to Madison to protest as today the bill scrapping most collective rights for the state employee unions had become law.  But after lunch she showed up along with intern Nikita.  I was the last one to present the self-evaluation.  After my autobiography, I became much more honest and open.  I needed to work on my social skills in Phase II.  And after I get out I need to remember to ask for help when I need it before I get into trouble.  I rated myself a 4 on honesty, openness, program expectations, unit tasks, and on interactions with peers and staff and a 4 on my written assignments.  My peers in the group kept trying to bump my scores higher which I suppose I feel good about.  But Ms. Grey focused on my social interaction.  I shared I’m comfortable in situations where I’m in control or have an escape route, which is why I had success in my Christian Rock band and in my work as an Information Technology professional.  She deserved that in her opinion I exhibit symptoms of obsessive compulsive disorders.  First time I’ve ever heard that but I suppose its possible.  I’ve always believed it was part of my post traumatic delayed stress disorder and related anxiety issues.  Anyway, again I was the only one that gave any kind of substantial feedback.  She then announced she wanted us to turn in all the work we had done the last 13 weeks.  Unfortunately, she hadn’t told us to keep the material and much of it though she had assigned it we had never gone through it especially the movie reviews.  Some had very little of the material but everyone was missing some of it including me.  A mini panic gripped the room as we started to go back to our cells trying to find missing work.  After we’d all returned and handed in what we had prepared for our Phase I test.  We were expecting a multiple choice test but no, it was an essay test with 5 questions.  Again, we all sweated this test including me.  But it turned out it was ok or we’re going to go over the answers Monday.  Finally group was over.  That night a new guy came in for the next ERP group that will start when Andre’s group gets cleared out of here.  I felt a mixture of sympathy for him and relief that that isn’t me.  Boy, am I thankful that  isn’t me!  Week 13 of 26 down and 12 to go. 


I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP).  Yesterday morning started off with our ERP group leader, Ms. Grey, handing out the schedule for week 10 which included a note today there would be no program work because of the state worker protests in Madison that employees in Milwaukee will be bussed to.  As you might recall, I wrote that having Gov. Walker a GOP Legislature was going to spell trouble for state workers.  As I noted on the last entry, employees at MSDF are unhappy too.  For Ms. Grey, she seemed to relish the idea of the sixties style protests taking place.  There’s not a lot of sympathy for the guards or other workers here as many perceive them to be paid a lot for very little.  One thing I’d tell you though, is in environments like this it has a special kind of stress for its workers.  Where there’s very little to separate the productive from the non-productive, a brutal type of politics is practiced by one against another, especially by those who week to get noticed or get ahead.  Such a place causes more stress and anxiety than one with objective performance measurements.  Ms. Grey opened the ERP session with the breathing and song we do everyday and then handed out copied worksheets from the Beyond Anger series copyrighted to Earnie Larsen.  The video was ok but the workbook was outstanding especially for me.  It covers the six faces of anger, the cost of repressed and misdirected anger, understanding anger, patterns of behavior, basic rights, learning behaviors, resisting change, healing repressed anger, six step process of healing, intercepting your anger pattern, intercept tools, ongoing health, forgiveness is a gift you give yourself, confronting regrets, principles of reconciliation and realistic expectations.  If you’d like details, feel free to email my sponsors and it’ll get to me.  I was very happy I’d already done my autobiography because now that the ERP group knew everything I was able to openly discuss and answer the questions in a brutally honest fashion.  In our first day we got up through “Resisting Change”. We’re going through it fast and I feel like we could benefit by spending more time on this but keep in mind not everybody has my issues though.  I wish I could summarize it all for you here but it just wouldn’t do it justice.  If you have any kind of anger issue you should get this.  As part of the autobiography I’ve been assigned 2 assignments from the MSDF library, which sad to say, is pretty lacking.  The first was a 5 page essay based on chapter 5, 7, 13-14 of Houses of Healing by Robin Casarjian which I’d already read and as I’ve noted before is a great book.  My second 5 page essay is on Anger is a Choice by Tim Lattaye and Bob Phillips.  I’m familiar with Lattay from his Left Behind book series but this is quit different.  I’m shocked they gave out something so Christian oriented but I’m fine with that as I am Christian.  So I’ve got some work to do, things that will actually benefit me and that makes me happy. 


I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP).  We had the worst meal ever since my incarceration began.  The entree was beef stroganoff.  The smell literally made me want to vomit.  I dared to actually take a bite and then I wished I would vomit.  I’m not the type to complain but this was bad.  Fortunately, I had some canteen left over so I finished that off.  I ran into a hustler on this cell block who wants to trade 2 for 1 on anything if I’m hungry as he knows I’m not used to the food here yet and he thinks I won’t have money to buy canteen.  We place orders on Thursday and they are delivered the following Wednesday.  Fortunately, one of my sponsors sent me a little cash  so we didn’t have the same situation I did when I got to Fox Lake Minimum Correctional Institution (FMCI).  So I declined, but I would’ve anyway.  You don’t want to get involved with people like that.  This just means I have to exist on state food till Wednesday.  Don’t worry, I’ll be fine!  After supper, my cellies finished their group and after returning to the cell, Malik Pearl and I got into a conversation.  First it was about ERP.  Rumors have it Gov. elect Scott Walker is going to try to kill the program and return to truth in sentencing and he expressed doubts as he didn’t think financially the state could.  Then he told me he asked to come here for ERP as its said the ERP at MSDF is considered the easiest of all the prisons and that I should be grateful I came here instead of some of the others.  It is true, especially at Oshkosh, that many don’t get through.  The way he spoke reminded me of a black preacher’s cadence, and he seemed to genuinely believe what he said.  I made the comment he should be a preacher.  Malik looked at me like he was shocked and I asked what was up.  It seems between bits (times) in prison at one point he had become a Christian and was being groomed to take over as a pastor at a church.  His desire to have material possessions led him back to the world of drugs and dealing.  Malik said he wasn’t yet ready to recommit his life  to God but he will eventually.  I told him not to wait too long, you never know what might happen and that God’s gifts and call upon his life is irrevocable.  Someday he could be restored to his former position, and that there is hope.  He said he’s get there, but first he’d go back to the life (dealing) so he could get financially stable.  God would let him know when it was his time he thought.  I replied that God has already spoken.  I suppose one on the outside might not understand the contradiction Malik presents but I do.  The good he wants to do is obfuscated by the falling dominoes chain of bad decisions.  It doesn’t mean the desire to do right is gone.  But the whole conversation about God, by two men who demonstrate feet of clay every day, I sensed was more effective than any preacher’s message could have been then.  But I’ve learned we haven’t lost the credibility to help others even if we’ve made some horrible mistakes.  


I’m at the Fox Lake Minimum Correctional Institution (FMCI), a facility in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS).  After I left you last time, we were assembled in the dayroom and the whole place suddenly erupted in catcalls, hooting and hollering.  The reason became evident pretty quick. It seems Kim Murphy from Fox6 News in Milwaukee was on the screen and she had chosen to wear a bright yellow sweater that emphasized…. well let’s just say nobody was looking at her face.  I suspect there has never before or will be again a more informed inmate population that FMCI on current events though I must admit I doubt we remember a thing that she said.  But it’s situations like this that unify men, whether black or white, Christian or Muslim, Republican or Democrat, incarcerated or free.  If we only could bottle what boobs do to us, there would never be another war!  Maybe it was something in the air as a result of all this, I’m not sure.  But the guy I told you about yesterday reported he got called into Ms. Greer’s office where Lt. Brodie met with him.  He said Brodie apologized for blowing up at him and didn’t want to see him file a complaint.  What!?  Brodie apologized to an inmate?  Pigs are flying, hell has frozen over and the Pope became Protestant.  I suppose it’s possible it’s true.  People, including Brodie, are complex.  It’s not like TV, where characters are easily pigeon holed into a specific type and that’s all they are.  It can get frustrating when people color outside the lines we’ve drawn for them especially when they use colors we weren’t expecting.  But based on what we know of him I just don’t believe it yet.  I will be open to the possibility Brodie is still capable of treating inmates as human beings as I’ll bet he did once prior to the burnout that can afflict those dealing with people like us inmates over many years.  After supper, I made my way back to my bunk and turned on the radio while I watched the news with closed captioning on.  For the record, I usually watch Milwaukee based WTMJ out of habit and because Brian Gotter is the funniest meteorologist I’ve ever known.  Coincidentally, Kim Murphy used to work there!  But as I rotated radio stations, I found on that, in mid-November, that had apparently picked this week to begin playing an all Christmas Music format.  Back when I was in the real world, I would’ve railed against this horrible exploitation of us consumers, and there would have been some truth in what I was saying.  But I’m thankful for it here.  It reminds me of the kids, of a less dreary place and making plans that I know would make others happy.  But holiday music isn’t the preferred choice around here and I’d get a lot of strange looks not to mention assumptions made of what a fruitcake I must be.  So as something played from the Mariah Carey Christmas CD (Yes, I admit to liking it.  You know you do too!) I reached down to the headphone jack and made sure the plug-in for my headphones was firmly connected and no one was staring in my direction.


I’m at the Fox Lake Minimum Correctional Institution (FMCI), a facility in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS).  The fallout from the institution wide shakedown has continued. Several times a day people are paged to report to the social worker’s office from the guard desk.  When the page comes from the guard desk and not from Ms. Greer you know this isn’t going to be a visit to that office that will end well.  People are going there for ticket hearings and are being told to bring property receipts with them that prove the confiscated property belonged to them.  Bunk confinement of varying length is the normal punishment.  Every once in awhile someone actually wins a hearing.  You know they did as they celebrate like they scored a touchdown.  Slowly but surely life is returning to normal. Somehow the smokers managed successfully to hide tobacco though I hear the asking price for a rolled cigarette has gone up to four to five dollars of canteen from two to three dollars.  Clothing bought from the catalogs that was lost is the biggest issue for folks as buyers and sellers are trying to get together on a price.  Where am I at on this?  My little routines I hang onto to preserve some organization from the chaos around me at at times my mind can sink into serve me well here. Additional clothing or property just for luxury sake would disrupt the routines I’ve developed.  I know that sounds weird but if you’ve been reading awhile you’re used to it by now.  Occasionally the guys laugh at me because for many things I do everyday I do them like clockwork. I don’t care if they laugh.  Their opinions matter little. It’s usually good natured.  One of the guys I’d call one of the winners around here is being released Monday.  A strong Christian who was liked by all he is one of those guys that has a personality that can light up a room.  He’s headed to Texas where he has a wife and church to support him.  Originally FMCI would have taken him via bus to Fond Du Lac, WI (thirty miles away) and let him off at a bus station as they do all who are released and have no one to come get them or some other arrangement through a Parole Officer or something like that.  He wrote to a church in the area just out of the blue and someone responded indicated a willingness to pick him up here and give him a ride to the airport.  How cool is that?  That’s the kind of courage I need to learn.  We also got a new guy in who opened up to me out of the blue.  It seems he was approved for Act 28 release but the judge in his case had denied him.  They have to let him go in February, and when I pointed out to him he most likely would have been on electronic monitoring for 6 months had he gotten early release, he indicated he didn’t care.  He’d been down for eight years and the only thing that mattered was getting home to his kids. Inwardly I smiled. I so understand that desperation and desire.  Finally, congratulations to Chris Tomlin, one of my favorite Christian artists, on finally getting married this week.  I wish the very best to him and his new wife!